Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Powder Blues and Old Emblems

The Milwaukee Road had a couple of impressive crossings of the Missouri River. One, located on the Western Extension at Mobridge. The second, located a bit to the south at Chamberlain, SD. These are but two examples of the impressive engineering that went into this old railroad's westward progress.

Chamberlain is a small town in South Dakota in the lands of rolling prairie and tall grasses. Not too far away, a famed author would later recount her days growing up in De Smet as her father worked on building the railroad west in a little house on the prairie. This is that country.

Memories of the Milwaukee are found out in this sea of grasses as well. The old line across this part of South Dakota still rolls along with the gentle hills, but train movements are exceptionally rare.

In Chamberlain rests the remains of many Milwaukee relics from years past. On this day, a pair of old SD-9 locomotives rest silently by the old depot on the outskirts of town. Keeping company are an assortment of dormant switch stands, boxcars, old passenger cars, and some aging company vehicles. The famous tilted rectangle still adorns many of the pieces here in Chamberlain, although it is clear that time is taking its toll and they wear the mark of the fallen. What was one of the preferred colors prominent in the 1970s - that amazing powder blue - is faded and cracked as is the logo on the door. Standing tall in the background, the remnants of another tilted rectangle looks on.

The dilapidation of an old strategic link in the transportation system is quiet and sad in places like Chamberlain. By dynamic contrast, I-90 rolls along outside of town destined for its own crossing of the Missouri River. Its massive 4 lanes and howling all-season radials are anything but quiet and faded blues. At least so far.

3 comments:

Oil-Electric said...

My ex was quite the "Little House" fan, and so it was a given that we visited the site and grave of Laural Ingalls Wilder many years ago

The Road' Public Relations Department had a field day promoting "the world's greatest farming and grazing lands."

Under the Homestead act, even a single woman could move onto a 160 acre plot which she would own after a five year occupancy.

Ms. Wilder wrote "Trains went faster than horses can run! They went so terribly fast that often they wrecked. You never knew what might happen to you on a train."

Indeed! Now, the silence must be almost overwhelming ...

Anonymous said...

Having been in Chamberlain and spoken with the folks who run the Dakota Southern, you should know that the two SD7s and SD9s (506, 512, 522 and 4427) are operable, and in tracing the line across the South Dakota, I found that the line had been freshly mowed and that the DS is running Mitchell to White Lake. If grain rate agreements get straightened out (there is considerable pressure on BNSF to do so) then trains will run again along the weedy mainline between Kadoka and Mitchell. It's only a days drive from Wisconsin to this little mecca - hopefully I'll be able to go west to see an operating line again. DS is also storing cars due to the recession...and these will move out at some point when the economy gets better.

Fred Hyde

LinesWest said...

That's good news Fred, thanks for passing it along. I noticed they had an old Centennial sitting there on the property as well - although I suspect using that in grain movements is not in the operating plan.

Best,
-Leland